Friday, December 21, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (19 December)

Tyranist and I had a sort of unusual week. Because of the holidays, we got together twice this week (probably won't get to next week) and had ourself a merry little "Buffy" marathon on Wednesday, and an "Angel" one on Thursday.

So, I can do my regular "Buffy/Angel" recap, in order of airdate, or blog them as we actually watched them. I'm not sure which to choose.

Regardless, first was had the "Angel" episode "The Shroud of Rahmon" to get through. It was written by Jim THE BOOGENS Kouf, and had that great technique of showing us the end first, with Wesley in a police station, being interrogated by two detectives, then flashing back to tell us how he got there. I like Anne Hathaway's breasts.

Cordelia has an awful new haircut (her hair is black now and she looks like Tiffany Amber Thiessen with slightly realler breasts), and Angel is out with Gunn.

They are meeting with Gunn's cousin, who's supposed to be the driver for a robbery involving a demon and a Vegas vampire called Jay-Don (or J-Dawn, I don't know). Gunn's cousin doesn't want to do it and Angel says he'll take care of it. Gunn says that he'll take care of it. The pissing contest seems to end with Angel the victor and a lot of wet pavement.

Angel goes back to his hotel room and finds Policewomanofficer Kate Lockley snooping around in there. She's looking for Darla and brandishes a cross. She really has become the most unpleasant character on the show. Angel tells her she needs to back off or wind up like her old man (actually he doesn't say this, but he does try to warn her off the Darla case), and the cross doesn't seem to bother him.

Angel heads to the bus station were Jay-Don has arrived. Angel kills him and takes his place, then meets with two demons (one of them is played by Tony "Candyman" Todd) and a security guard. The last member of their group to show up is the driver, who is no longer Gunn's cousin, but is Gunn. Luckily, it seems none of these guys know each other or have any pictures to identify them.

Turns out they're robbing the Natural History Museum of something called the Shroud of Rahmon, but instead of waiting a couple of days to steal it, their leader decides they should go immediately, preventing Angel (or Gunn) to warn Cordelia and Wesley where they're going.

Wesley discovers the Shroud's history and that it causes those around it to lose their minds. That sort of thing happens when they go inside the museum. They steal the box that holds the Shroud, but Angel starts vamping up, and Gunn gets surlier than ever. Eventually, everybody turns on everybody else, and the security guard loses his head (in the literal way this time rather than just wigging out about fingerprints and stuff)

Wesley and Cordelia also go there, but our one-armed evillawyerdude Lindsay McDonald tips Policewomanofficer Lockley onto the heist as well, and she goes too. Angel's eyes are all yellow and when Kate Lockley shows up and points a gun at him, he knocks it out of her hand and bites her.

We go to commercial and Kate is dead on the floor. Hmmm. Angel and the remaining thieves slip out, and when the rest of the cops arrive, they find Wesley standing over Kate's body.

Everybody starts fighting--and killing--each other over the Shroud. Gunn and Angel fight over it and Angel takes it away and burns it. Everyone is returned to normal (except the many who are dead).

So, now Wesley has told his story to the detectives (though we can't really know what he told him), they think he is the killer. But then, in walks Policewomanofficer Lockley, looking like hell, but alive. We flash back to see that Angel told her to pretend to die when he bit her, and actually didn't drink all her blood. That Angel, he's just such a showman. She clears Wesley, and he is allowed to go free. The end.

You know, this was quite a solid episode . . . at first. In the end, it didn't really go anywhere or pay off the way it looked like it would. I liked the reversal with Kate Lockley, but all in all, the show was less satisfying than the others this season.

Tyranist probably disagrees with me, as he's mentioned that he dislikes the episodes with Darla or internal Angel problems, and wishes they would just go back to the babe-in-trouble-hires-Angel-Investigations formula. I thought that formula grew tired in Season One, but wouldn't mind seeing a few like that every once in a while. What makes the show work for me is the interesting dynamic of the characters and the world Joss and Co. have created, not necessarily the premise (for example, Cordelia hardly ever gets visions anymore, only when someone realises it would be a nice plot device to push the story where they want it to go). But that's just my opinion.

Next, we saw a "Buffy" episode (the first of three). It was called "Listening To Fear" (though I don't remember that title at all), and was written by newcomer Rebecca Rand Kirshner, who wrote the episode tyranist blogged about . . . "Out of my Head," was it?

Buffy and Dawn are in the hospital with Joyce, and the doctor tells her they'll operate to remove her brain tumor in two days. She can't imagine being cooped up there with nothing but her thoughts, so Buffy volunteers to take her home and watch over her until it's time for her surgery. The doctor tells her it will be a lot of responsibility, and Joyce may say things she doesn't mean from time to time, but Buffy's saved the world; she's okay with the burden.
As they leave, a mental patient points at Dawn and rants about how she's empty inside and doesn't belong and ICE PRINCESS was a shitty movie. This distresses Dawn, but Buffy does what she can to comfort her too.

Giles and the others volunteer to patrol while Buffy is with her family. Riley goes off and has another vampire chick biting him (on the arm this time, in what really appears to be a heroin shoot-up).

Willow and Tara seem to be camping on a rooftop, watching the stars, when they see a meteorite crash down in the woods. Luckily, Peter Parker happens to be ten feet away when it happens, but they don't know that. They go get the others to investigate.

The mental patient from before is walking through the woods when some horrible THING attacks him. It goes to the hospital, where it attacks (and kills) all the crazies in the mental ward. But there's still at least one more crazy person in Sunnydale, and it heads toward the Summers house.

The gang converge on the site where the alien crashed down and they find the body of the crazy guy (and a really bad smell). Riley takes charge and sticks around while the others go to look stuff up in books or something. As soon as he's alone, Riley calls in the Initiative--or the military that used to be it--and they show up veryveryvery quickly. They say the creature has radioactive properties and can track it that way.

The creature from space is revoltinger than Anna Nicole Smith before her death, and seems to be a combination fetus and leech. Regardless, it is so scary that I curled into a ball chanting, "Kalima protects us, we are her children," while trying to control my bowels.*

The gang discover that they're not dealing with an alien, but a Queller Demon, which is traditionally summoned (from the heavens) to eliminate plagues of insanity.

At home, Buffy's mom wigs out a bit, calling Dawn a "thing," and also bashing ICE PRINCESS. Buffy tells her sister their mother doesn't mean those things, and they leave her alone in her bedroom. She continues to talk to herself and to the ceiling and they try to ignore her, not realising that something is indeed moving across her ceiling toward her. Buffy even goes as far as to turn on loud music to blot out the sound, and takes her opportunity to finally cry.

Dawn checks on her mother, who is being attacked by the Queller Demon. She grabs a coat rack and hits the creature with it. Dawn screams and Buffy runs upstairs to investigate. The creature tries to escape, just as Spike emerges from the basement (he apparently was there the whole time, stealing Buffy baby pictures or something equally unsettling). Spike helps Buffy catch the demon, and Buffy stabs it a score of times with a knife.

At that moment, Riley and his soldier friends burst through the front door. Too little, too late. Spike taunts him a little bit about that, taking more than his share of credit for stopping the demon.

Joyce recovers a bit of her sanity, and tells Buffy that she had what alcoholics refer to as a "moment of clarity." She knows that Dawn is not her real daughter. Buffy agrees, but Joyce loves her just the same and tells Buffy to take care of Dawn if she doesn't come out of the surgery okay.

The whole gang shows up at the hospital to see Joyce off, as she is wheeled in to have her procedure. It is revealed that the person who summoned the (Sarah Michelle) Queller Demon was none other than Ben, the handsome hospital intern. He tells Glory's little henchman that he's spent his whole life cleaning up after the Blond Beast, and surely we'll have more on that later. The end.

I don't know how audiences in 2000 could stand waiting a week to see what happened, 'cause tyranist and I certainly couldn't. We skipped "Angel" and went right on to "Into the Woods," which aired seven years ago that night. This one was written AND directed by Marti Noxon, a first, I'm sure.

The episode picks up immediately after, and Joyce's surgery has gone well. Riley praises Buffy for how strong she's been, since she didn't even cry. She tells him she did cry, and that vexes him. Xander and Anya volunteer to take Dawn for the night so Riley and Buffy can spend some quality time together.

As anyone who's not me can tell you, "quality time" is a euphemism for sex, and we get another one of those writhing-under-the-sheets scenes. We see Spike standing outside, torturing himself by watching. As soon as Buffy falls asleep, Riley gets up and sneaks out of the house. Spike follows him. Riley goes to what can only be described as a vampire crackhouse. Spike sees him giving his blood to a skinny vampire chick.

The last remaining Initiative buddy of Riley's is meeting with more military, and a guy I'll call The Major announces there's a big ole nest of demons breeding like Culkins in Belize. They're going to go down there and take 'em out, and Riley's name is suggested for a part of the team.

Joyce seems alright. She's got a shaved patch on her head, but apparently, everything went alright and the tumor is gone.

Spike wakes Buffy up and tells her he needs to show her something. She follows him to the vampire crackhouse, and finds Riley with a vampire chick on his lap, suckling from his arm. Riley is surprised to see Buffy there, but she doesn't stick around for him to explain. She's more than a little upset.

Riley goes home and finds the Major there. They give him the pitch: come to Belize and kill lots of demons, also, free balloons. The team is leaving tomorrow at midnight so be there or be square.

At the magic shop, Giles puts up an amusing holiday banner that I wish I could remember word for word, and Buffy comes in. She wants to know what she saw last night. Giles tells her it's an old setup where humans get a rush out of paying vampires to suck their blood. The vampires dig it 'cause, hey, free food, free money (unfortunately, no free balloons with this deal). Giles seems to think it's not really a concern of theirs, which I found odd, but Buffy goes there anyway, to stake the vampires. The building is empty, but she burns the place anyway. Even Anya can see she's upset.

Riley finds Spike in his crypt and stakes him. But it turns out to be a plastic stake. They talk and Riley tells him he knows he's got the hots for Buffy, but Spike thinks Riley is jealous of him. What Buffy needs, he says, is a little monster in her man, and Riley ain't got that. Nevertheless, Spike says he's jealous of Riley, since he at least gets to touch her and make sweet love to her down by the fire. Somehow, the two bond over this, and pass a bottle back and forth.

Buffy takes out a bit more of her frustration on a punching bag. Riley walks in and insists on talking to her. He says some silly crap about going to the vampire chicks to feel how Buffy felt when Dracula bit her, but the crux of the situation is that those vampire whores NEEDED Riley in a way Buffy never has/does/will.

He can't get from Buffy what he really needs and accuses her of always keeping him at a distance, citing several examples from this season, such as not calling him when she found out about her mother. This only makes Buffy angrier. She's given him all that she has to give. Riley tells her about the job he was offered and says he's going to go unless she gives him a reason to stay.

Buffy storms out, furious, and finds herself surrounded by the whole clan of vampires she made homeless that day. Tyranist moaned, saying, "Now Riley will save her and we'll see that she actually does need him."

But surprisingly, she kills every single one of the vampires without losing a button. The last one left is the vampire chick that was using Riley as a baby bottle, and Buffy seems to take pity on her. As she's running away, Buffy stakes her too.

Xander appears out of nowhere like Rod Serling and tells her she's acting crazy. She wants to be left alone, but Xander follows her. He accuses her of never treating Riley like a serious love interest, but like a space filler or a rebound guy. Buffy accuses Xander right back of treating Anya like nothing more than an easy lay, but Xander doesn't even respond to it, he continues for about three and a half episodes about the greatness that is Riley Finn.

I can't really understand why this speech was given to Xander, 'cause it sounds so wrong coming out of his mouth, but who am I to question? He tells her that she basically drove Riley to the vampire whores. Am I wrong? Isn't that pretty much what he says? Buffy tells him about Riley's ultimatum and Xander tells her to go after him. Xander talks like he's got a man-crush on Marc Blucas himself. "How can you let this awesome guy go?" and such. He understands Riley so well, giving all Riley's reasoning for all that he's done. Buffy, it seems, does hear him, 'cause she asks what she should do, and he says, "Run."

So, it's almost midnight and Riley is standing beside the helicopter, waiting for Buffy to arrive or not to arrive, I guess. Midnight comes, and he gets onboard the vehicle. As it rises into the air, Buffy runs toward it, trying to get them to stop. Riley doesn't look back, never knowing that Buffy was there, and the helicopter disappears into the distance. Buffy trudges back home alone.

Xander goes to see Anya, and tells her that he loves her. He also tells her she makes him feel like a man. I suspect he does not tell her that he sometimes wishes she looks like Marc Blucas. They kiss. The end.

I wasn't entirely satisfied by this episode, but I could see what they were trying to do (and why), and hence can forgive most of the flaws.

Tyranist and I stopped the episode in the middle and each of us talked about our opinions of the situation. It was strange, but tyranist totally related to Buffy and I totally sympathised with Riley. He explained his point of view and I explained mine.* I think the writers went out of their way to make us understand Riley's position and not make him an irrational tool, as we saw the baby steps his character took to finally getting the hell out of Dodge. It would be hard to be Buffy's man, no matter how square your jaw is.

I think--and I can ask tyranist for his two cents on this--that my friend was able to forgive some of Riley's behaviour (though not his ultimatum), despite his hatred for the guy. I understand Buffy too, since hey, she did have a lot going on in her world, what with the Blond Bitch and her mother and protecting Dawn the Key and all. And Spike has been actively working to split Buffy and Riley apart, so there's that.

At least it wasn't the trite, unbelievable, artificial break-up I've seen in other WB shows, where Joey Potter or Lana Lang or that perky "Roswell" girl say things and act completely out of character just because drama is supposed to be had, to keep the fourteen year old girls watching the show interested.

I do hate it when Buffy gets all "How dare you tell me how I should feel," as she has, both with Angel and with Riley, but hey, she doesn't like people telling her how to feel.

My friend was pretty happy about the prospect of a Marc Blucas-free rest of Season Five. To satiate his curiosity, we started the next episode, "Triangle," just to see if he would be in the credits. Of course, once we started, there would be no stopping us from finishing. Sad.

Obviously, "Triangle" took place a while afterward. It was one of those where I didn't even have to look to know it aired weeks (maybe months) after "Into the Woods."*** It was written by Jane Espenson, and was a refreshingly light episode after the last few.

We start with Xander and Anya chatting about what's been going on in Buffy's world: Riley is gone, Buffy feels bad, Glory the Blond Beast is still out there, the WB is talking about not renewing the show for a sixth season, that sort of thing. Giles figures he'll go to England and talk to the Watchers' Council about what to do about Glory.

He leaves the magic shop in Anya and Willow's charge, but they seem to be not getting along, for some reason. I can't imagine someone not getting along with Willow, like I can't imagine Jane Seymour not being attractive. Willow starts gathering items for spells, and Anya accuses her of stealing. Tara notices how those two seem to be fighting about Xander and hits the road. Tyranist suggested, before I realised it, that the titular "Triangle" was between Anya, Willow, and Xander. And he was right.

Buffy is sad about the loss of Riley and wishes she had done things differently. Tyranist also wishes she had done things differently, like the handful of times she saved Riley's life.

Spike rehearses what he'll say to Buffy about driving Riley away, using that Buffy doll he keeps around (I smile every time I see it, just as I frown every time I see Harmony). If even the mannequin turned him down, he'd know how I live my life.

Willow starts casting a spell, but Anya interrupts it. While they argue, a big old Abraham Benrubi-looking troll appears, smashing everything in his path with a big old hammer. He goes out into the night to debauch, searching for wenches and mead.

Amazingly, it appears Buffy is in school again. She and Tara are in a class together and Tara tells her about all the bickering that's going on and how it's alienating Tara and Xander. Buffy breaks down at the possibility of the other couples breaking up, and I have to admit that I was more amused by it than moved. But again, I hated ELF.

Spike and Xander meet each other at the Bronze, where Spike is fond of these little onion things they make there. While playing pool, they seem to hit it off. Anya and Willow try to find the troll, tracking him to the Bronze, where he goes for ale and babies to eat (yeah, babies, but before you judge, they taste surprisingly good with a little honeymustard). Spike suggests he try the little onion things and they give him beer while waiting for Buffy to arrive.

She does, and it is revealed that the troll is an old boyfriend of Anya's. Centuries ago, after he cheated on her with Madonna (yes, she's that old), Anya turned him into a troll. It was what impressed what's-his-name enough to turn her into a vengeance demon. He is upset about seeing Anyanka again, and starts pounding things (and people) with his hammer. Spike, trying to impress Buffy, helps with the injured. She is not impressed.

Anya and Willow rush back to the magic shop to cast a counter-spell. They bicker more, since Willow thinks Anya will break Xander's heart, and Anya thinks Willow is trying to take Xander away from her. Anya says she'd never hurt Xander, and Willow
says, "Hello? Gay now." Olaf the troll comes back before they can cast their spell, and Xander is right behind him. When Olaf sees him trying to protect them, he beats Xander up and forces him to choose which of the girls will die. Xander refuses The Sadistic Choice and Anya volunteers to be the one who dies. Nice.

Buffy arrives (what, was she in a wheelchair this episode, or what?) and fights Olaf. She becomes especially violent when Olaf says Anya and Xander's relationship will fail, and pummels him until the spell can be cast. It sends Olaf into an alternate universe, but we don't know which one.

Giles returns and is unhappy about the condition of his shop. He says he learned nothing about Glory or the Key she's after (I hope he at least got some decent fish and chips and a pint or two while he was there). In the adjoining room, Dawn hears them talking about her, but how much she understands I don't know. The end.

I enjoyed this one. It was fun. And amusing. And sometimes, that's just what you need.

That brought our night to an end. Tyranist told me we might have made it through another whole episode if we hadn't talked for a half an hour through "Into the Woods." I got the impression he resented this, but I hope that's not the case, since I'd rather watch one episode and talk to him about it than watch two or even three episodes.

But I am extremely starved for human contact.

Rish Blucas Outfield

*Okay, that's maybe an exaggeration, but this thing was still scary as hell. It made the "Hush" baddies look like Natalie Portman with short hair in that MAGORIUM movie. In other words, still scary, just not terrifying.

**Though I have to admit that it was harder for me to explain why I understood Riley talking to her this way, going outside the relationship--'cause really, that's what it really was, wasn't it?--and not sound like a silly douche. Heck, maybe I did sound like one after my long attempt at an explanation was at an end, but the main point I wanted to stress was: The heart wants what the heart wants. Buffy isn't capable of giving herself in the way that he needed, and she certainly wasn't capable of being the weaker link in the relationship, allowing Buffy to comfort, protect, and save his arse, the way, say, Xander might be.

I was once extremely interested in a woman who absolutely didn't need anyone's help in any way. She was smart, she had confidence, beauty, a way with people, and looked at those who needed help (whether it was changing a flat tire, talking to a pushy salesman, or offering a gentle shoulder) with a bit of disdain. And it made me furious. Or maybe just useless. But I'm pretty sure I was that to begin with.

***For the record, it aired on January 9th, which was only three weeks later. Maybe it was just shot a long time after.

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